Crown Imperial Madness

Yesterday was a day of pageantry, cheering crowds and an unforced display of respect for the monarch from many in our nation. Boris Johnson’s government has now crowned that achievement with proposals that will make the UK a laughing stock worldwide. Proposals to bring back imperial measurements fly in the face of modernity and the needs of enterprise. But they suit the needs of this out of touch government, which seems to believe that if we bring back crowns on beer glasses and allow grocers to sell only in imperial measures it will lift the popular mood.

Although this scheme is the brainchild of Jacob Rees Mogg, who seems to be living in the century before last, business minister Paul Scully is the fall guy who today is presenting the daftest idea to come out of any government’s stable in decades. Not so much Build Back Better as Build Back Backwards.

We seem to have lost any aspirations under this government. Any ambitions to making the dream of making the possible, but challenging, happen. Instead, we have a discredited prime minister lusting for yesterday and desperate for any scrap of positive publicity. It’s a government without leadership, without strategy and if it remains in office, we won’t have much of future.

I think even the government is embarrassed about this proposal. There is not even a link to the consultation in it’s press release. But wanting to hear messages that will be music to Jacob Rees Mogg’s ears, the government only asks consumers whether they want measures in imperial or imperial and metric. Not only in metric. And it asks whether consumers have experience of buying only in imperial measurements but not of buying only in metric measurements.

There is nothing wrong with the proposal to allow the crown to be engraved on pint glasses. The usual standard marks must remain on the glass and with most pint glasses these days branded with the beer or lager name, it’s going to get crowded with a crown on the glass.

The proposal to return to crown imperial has been celebrated by the Daily Telegraph but derided by the rational world. According to the Guardian, one Tory cabinet member said the imperial measures policy was “absolutely bananas”. Another cabinet source said they had “no idea which muppet had come up with that idea”. This is an idea too daft for even the Muppets. Tory peer and Asda boss Lord Rose said: “I’ve never heard such nonsense in my life. I mean, we have got serious problems in the world and we’re now saying let’s go backwards. Does anybody in this country below the age of about 40 know how many ounces there are in a pound?” The British Retail Consortium which represents the major retail operations said updating product labels to include imperial measurements could push prices up. The head of the National Market Traders Federation dismissed the plans as “nostalgia” and said they would create extra difficulty for market traders. Ministers, let alone young people, can’t fathom the imperial system.

This government has struggled for years to have the intellectual capacity to deal with the issues of our times.

In proposing this bizarre measure, it is looking as nutty as a one kilogram fruitcake. The government is clearly going bananas. My bi-measurement greengrocer says there are around seven bananas to a kilogram, so I reckon this crackers government is now equivalent to a tonne of bananas.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • When a government comes out with this sort of nonsense you know they are in real trouble electorally, it is just an effort to shore up a diminishing base of support. Remember Portillo and a new Royal Yacht, that idea quickly sank at the bow.
    Andy I would not worry about it, more importasnt perhaps is Tobias Elwood saying we should rejoin the EEC.

  • Quite right, Andy. It’s the last desperate throes and squawks of the Johnson wunderkind before he is defenestrated, swallowed up and spat out by the Tory carnivores in three weeks time after the by-elections.

  • Barry Lofty 3rd Jun '22 - 11:29am

    Your whole piece says it all for me Andy, this government is turning our country into a laughing stock around the world all in a last ditch effort to appeal to the dwindling army of Little Englanders who might just keep Johnson in his job.

  • Mick Taylor 3rd Jun '22 - 12:19pm

    I wish I had your confidence, David Raw, that the Tories will ditch Johnson. He will narrowly win any vote of confidence and will stay out. Oh, and that assumes we actually win Tiverton&Honiton and that Labour win Wakefield. Neither outcome is certain and I worry about complacency that a win is in the bag.

  • Cj Williams 3rd Jun '22 - 1:18pm

    As Liberals are you saying that you would deny a business the ability to trade using imperial measures? If, as you imply, the system is not undestood or even recognised by the majority of consumers then surely that business will fail. Is this not a matter of choice for both business and consumer?

  • Peter Martin 3rd Jun '22 - 1:19pm

    “By about 1970 the penny had dropped with Westminster that, in an increasingly competitive world, imperial units were a handicap to British exports”

    Yes. 1970 was well before we entered the EEC/EU so the choice of units has nothing to do with Europe or Brexit. We made that choice for ourselves before we joined.

    Still, we should recognise that the older units do have their place. I’ve no idea how much air to put in my car tyres in terms of Newtons per square metre, or Pascals, which is the SI unit, but I do know that 28 psi is about right. Similarly I know that a car which gives 50 or so mpg has relatively good economy, but just what that means in km per litre or litres per 100 km would require some thought and the use of my calculator.

  • They picked him because they thought he was a winner, Mick. He’s not a winner anymore if the boos when he entered St. Paul’s this morning are anything to go by. Yes I’m confident they’ll lose Wakefield, less so Tiverton and Honiton.

    Perversely, the longer he stays the better it is for the opposition parties – and the Tories are ruthless when they think it’s time for the knackers Yard. Look what happened to Heath, Thatcher, Duncan Smith and May. They’ve got form.

  • Nick Collins 3rd Jun '22 - 4:25pm

    My daughter has just drawn my attention to a letter, I know not in what publication, reproduced on her smart phone, urging the return of the scruple: a unit sadly missing from Downing Street of late.

  • I find it a little irritating that the media seems to have forgotten that it was Westminster who decided not to make Imperial weights and measures an official UK standard and thus their continued use would have been permitted under the EU regulations; even though the media, at the time, were vocal about this option…

    From memory, I don’t remember the Eurosceptics and UKIP aka Farage kicking up a fuss. I suspect additionally, there is nothing on record of JRM having an opinion on imperial weights and measures back then either; although I suspect given his residence, he has hit problems as his home will most certainly have been built using 15th century labour’s imperial measurements.

  • Roland 3rd Jun ’22 – 6:46pm:
    I find it a little irritating that the media seems to have forgotten that it was Westminster who decided not to make Imperial weights and measures an official UK standard…

    Criminalisation was imposed by the EU…

    ‘Metrication’ [May 2010]:

    EC Directive 80/181/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to units of measurement and on the repeal of Directive 71/354/EEC required Member States to adopt metric units for “measuring instruments used, measurements made and indications of quantity expressed in units of measurement, for economic, public health, public safety or administrative purposes” by certain fixed dates. The original deadline was extended in 1989 until 1999 and again in 2001 until 31 December 2009. […]

    Originally, it was intended that the use of all imperial measures would be phased out, but the UK negotiated exemptions for certain measures; these included: the mile, yard, foot and inch for road traffic signs, distance and speed measurement, the pint for the sale of draught beer and cider and for milk in returnable containers, the troy ounce for trade in precious metals and the acre for land registration.

  • Cj Williams 3rd Jun '22 - 10:32pm

    Martin. Are you trying to claim that it is beyond the wit of man that a business trading using in imperial measures could not be regulated?
    I did not suggest any unit of measurement just the Imperial ones.

  • Jenny Barnes 4th Jun '22 - 7:20am

    When it comes to measuring pressure I find the “bar” (100kpascals] and roughly equal to sea level air pressure most useful. You wouldn’t do well scuba diving trying to work in psi. Btw 28 psi is about 1.9 bar.

  • The key element in all this is industry, yes we still have it!
    In order to maintain exports we will need to use SI units. Is the government proposing we ditch that as well, making exporting even harder?
    Let alone all the time wasting teaching in schools two very different measurement systems.

  • David Simpson 4th Jun '22 - 8:57am

    This crazy proposal, if adopted and implemented, would mean considerable extra costs on businesses if (when?) we decide to rejoin or even enter into a free trade agreement with the EU. It would undoubtedly be used as an additional argument against rejoining by the diehard Brexiteers.

  • David Evans 4th Jun '22 - 10:16am

    Jeff, Did you read the rest of Roland’s comment beyond the short extract you chose to quote? Indeed if you had read simply to to the end of the sentence, you would have seen he clearly stated ‘ and thus their continued use would have been permitted under the EU regulations; even though the media, at the time, were vocal about this option…’ Thus the EU would have been constrained in their ability to criminalise their use.

    Our politicians failed to record even token support for Imperial measures then. It’s stretching a point beyond reason to blame the EU for going for all out metrication when our politicos had shown they didn’t give a stuff about imperial measures earlier.

  • David Evans 4th Jun ’22 – 10:16am:
    Jeff, Did you read the rest of Roland’s comment… […] …he clearly stated ‘ and thus their continued use would have been permitted under the EU regulations;…

    I did. The EEC Directives (71/354/EEC and 85/1/EEC) did not permit the continued use (even as a supplementary indicator) of imperial units beyond the cut-off date (originally the end of 1989). A series of later amendments extended the cut-off date for a small subset of units, mostly as “supplementary indicators” as quoted in my previous comment. They still made it illegal to use imperial measurements to weigh goods other than precious metals. They also made it illegal for imperial supplementary indicators to be more prominent than metric even in advertising or instructions.

    Our politicians failed to record even token support for Imperial measures then.

    The only reason we got the exemptions we did (eventually extended indefinitely) was because UK politicians put up a long fight, spurred on by public campaigns, the “metric martyrs” court cases, and representations from industry, particularly those which export to the United States.

    ‘EU abandons attempt to force UK to go metric’ [September 2007]:

    One argument that helped persuade the commission to keep imperial measures was the UK government’s insistence that European industry needed to sell to American markets which would not take kindly to importing products only bearing metric weights and measures.

  • David Simpson 4th Jun ’22 – 8:57am:
    This crazy proposal, if adopted and implemented, would mean considerable extra costs on businesses if (when?) we decide to rejoin or even enter into a free trade agreement with the EU.

    What was crazy was allowing the EU to dictate to us in the first place. All that’s being proposed is the decriminalisation of imperial units. It will not be compulsory to use them. In practice they are most likely to be used by some greengrocers, farm shops, and perhaps traditional sweet shops that may wish to sell loose sweets by the quarter. Some businesses might also wish to use them in advertising to emphasise the traditional nature and continuity of their goods. They should be free to do so.

    The UK already has a Free Trade Agreement with the EU – the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) is the world’s most comprehensive FTA which gives the UK full tariff and quota free access to all EU markets and vice versa.

  • David Evans 4th Jun '22 - 1:22pm

    Indeed, David Raw – the Conservatives have lots of “form” when it comes to deposing failing leaders. That is why they are the most successful political party in almost any democracy anywhere.

    Sadly, our party was without doubt the most astonishingly easy going with its failing leader – which is why they are in government and we are back where we were in the 1970s.

    With luck, Tiverton and Honiton will help us with another small step along the road to recovery.

  • Cj Williams 3rd Jun ’22 – 1:18pm:
    As Liberals are you saying that you would deny a business the ability to trade using imperial measures?

    A new definition of a Liberal? Someone who wants to legalise cannabis, but not the unit of measurement in which it’s sold.

  • As the law stands: ‘You can display an imperial measurement alongside the metric measurement but it cannot stand out more than the metric measurement.’
    So hardly a great hardship now, is it?
    I’m guessing traders wanting ‘imperial only’ would use it to make prices look lower. I can’t see service stations pricing fuel by the gallon instead of the litre!

  • Cj Williams 4th Jun '22 - 3:11pm

    Jeff. Not just cannabis. As an aside does anyone measure there golf shots in metres or buy a 39.37 inch TV?

  • The Jubilee ? It was the Roman poet Juvenal who many many years ago first described government policy as, ‘bread and circuses’ .

    Johnson supposedly had a classical education, but under him the policy has now been adjusted to, ‘Not so much bread, but plenty of circuses’.

  • @Jeff “I did”
    However, your comments show that in your research you didn’t go back far enough.

    Westminster could have enacted primary legislation making imperial weights and measures the legal standing the EU required for them to be recognised in the EU legislation.

    So when the Eu wrote the directives you refer to (and the UK/Westminster agreed to), the UK had given itself no legal standing to demand that the EU take account of imperial weights and measures…

    The source of much of what the Brexiteers complained about Brussels ‘forcing on a poor defenseless UK”, actually had its origin in Westminster…

  • Robert Hale 4th Jun '22 - 5:53pm

    Metrication in the UK has been typically stop/start since it was first discussed in parliament around 1820. Presumably if the government were really serious it would be suggesting the reintroduction of £sd which it is not. The key word in this is ‘consultation’ and along with the desired headline in last week’s Sunday Mail that’s probably as far as it’s going to get and never be heard of again.

  • Why shouldn’t non-metric measurements be allowed? People should be allowed to do what they want as long as it doesn’t harm others. Any other approach is illiberal.

  • No I have not been hoodwinked, if I want to sell a six foot fence post I think it is pathetic to have to legally describe it as 1.8288 metres in length.

  • Ambighter 5th Jun ’22 – 11:29am…….No I have not been hoodwinked, if I want to sell a six foot fence post I think it is pathetic to have to legally describe it as 1.8288 metres in length…..,..

    Why would you want a 6ft fence post? A quick look at any builders’ merchants would show that all posts are made using metric measurements.. If I want a 2M post why should they need to sell it as 6.56168 ft?

  • David Evans 5th Jun '22 - 12:50pm

    Ambighter – it’s OK. Don’t worry. There’s an acceptable leeway in measuring cut timber. 1.828 metres will suffice. 🙂

  • Peter Davies 5th Jun '22 - 2:54pm

    Indeed Wickes already get away with describing their 1.8 m fenceposts as six foot.

  • Jenny Barnes 5th Jun '22 - 5:48pm

    That’ll be 6 metric feet, then 🙂 300mm = 1 foot

  • Jenny Barnes 5th Jun '22 - 5:52pm

    Interestingly , wikipedia gives the defiinition of a metre as:
    “The metre, symbol m, is the SI unit of length. It is defined by taking the fixed numerical value of the speed of light in vacuum c to be 299792458 when expressed in the unit m⋅s−1, where the second is defined in terms of the caesium frequency ΔνCs.”
    while the foot is defined as 0.3048 m.
    So imperial measurements are already defined by SI ones.

  • Jenny Barnes is correct.

    When you dig into the call for imperial measurements, the majority can only relate to the “everyday cultural” units such as a pint of milk/beer; which as Jenny notes are easily accommodated for by simply giving a label to specific metric values.
    I suspect many have no understanding of other units so would be at a loss if you asked them for 10 fluid ounces of beer instead of a half-pint.

    The only problems really arise in DIY where for you do need to know if, for example, your pipework is imperial or metric – for a leak-free coupling.

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